The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix from a tyre point of view: Abu Dhabi, 2-4 November 2012


What’s the story? The P Zero White medium tyre and the P Zero Yellow soft tyre have been nominated for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend, which follows straight off the back of the Indian Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi marks the final time that the soft tyre will be seen in competition this year, during which it has proved itself to be Pirelli’s most versatile compound, appearing in 15 of the 20 grands prix on the calendar. Abu Dhabi marks a perfect send off that plays to its attributes: the surface is fast and smooth and there is a wide variety of speeds and corners, in keeping with the design philosophy of the circuit, which was to incorporate many of the best features and layouts of other existing tracks. Nonetheless, Yas Marina successfully comes together as a cohesive whole, where tyre wear is low and the drivers can push hard from start to finish. With plenty of test data from Abu Dhabi – including from the now-traditional young driver test, which will take place once more straight after the grand prix with six teams this year – the teams have plenty of prior knowledge and data from this spectacular circuit. Yas Marina places specific demands on the tyres. The first part of the lap consists of a flowing sequence of corners, where the car is subjected to lateral forces of 4g, before there is a long straight where the cars remain on full throttle for around 15 seconds and the tyres are subjected to a downforce loading in the region of 800 kilogrammes. In turn 11 the tyres experience up to 5g under braking, while throughout the final sequence of corners the tyre tread is progressively heated up, reaching a peak temperature of approximately 120 degrees centigrade. A peculiarity of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is that it starts in the afternoon and continues until dusk, meaning that ambient and track temperatures tend to fall, rather than rise as the race goes on – and this has an important effect on tyre strategy. Pirelli’s motorsport director says: Paul Hembery: “We will always have very fond memories of the Abu Dhabi circuit because it is where our adventure in Formula One really started: back in 2010, the teams sampled our tyres there for the very first time at the official end of season test following the grand prix. That was a very special test, as we were brand new and the teams needed to understand our tyres. We’ve returned to test in Abu Dhabi a few times since, and we actually launched our 2012 programme to the international media there as well at the beginning of this year. The reason why we’ve often chosen Abu Dhabi for our testing and for other functions is because it has a bit of everything, which enables each aspect of a tyre’s performance to be thoroughly assessed, and because the track itself features some very modern, state-of-the-art facilities. We know that the combination of the medium and the soft tyre works extremely well here, and with the teams also having plenty of data about the circuit characteristics, they should be in a strong position to construct some race strategies that will make a real difference to the outcome of the weekend. With the championship so closely balanced now, having the right strategy could quite literally decide the title. Qualifying is also really important in Abu Dhabi, so we are expecting to see some strong efforts throughout the three qualifying sessions on Saturday.” The men behind the steering wheel say: Vitaly Petrov (Caterham F1 Team): “Abu Dhabi’s a great place to race: there’s always good support from Russian fans who make the trip there and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of racing on a track that has a bit of everything – the flat out section in the first sector, the tighter corners heading towards the hotel and what is almost a street circuit layout as we go around the hotel and back towards the start-finish straight. It’s also cool racing on a track where we start in the afternoon but finish with the sun down. For the fans it’s a great place to watch F1 and what I’ve seen on TV looks great, particularly around the hotel. Technically one of the main challenges is to get the braking right. We spend a lot of time working on braking stability and when you’re on track you can make up, and lose, a lot of time if you don’t attack the braking zones – but the added challenge with that is managing the tyres. We’ll have the medium and soft compounds for the race and with track evolution as high as it is over the weekend you need to make sure you look after the tyres as much as possible so you can get the most out of every set in each session. Overall it’s a race I’m looking forward to and hopefully we can make a bit more progress there and put on a good show for everyone watching.” Pirelli’s test driver says: Lucas di Grassi: ““Abu Dhabi is one of those races that is as much of a challenge for the engineers as it is for the drivers. It’s all about car balance and getting that right: the driver doesn’t make as much of a difference as he can do in places like Spa and Suzuka, for instance. In terms of infrastructure, Abu Dhabi for me is the best circuit in the world: it’s a great place for people to watch Formula One cars, with a little bit of everything and a spectacular setting. Tyre wear is not such a big issue in Abu Dhabi – good traction is the most important consideration – but the work done in free practice will be even more important than usual, as it will be vital for the teams to find a good balance on both compounds. The difference in speed between them should be quite small if the car set-up is right. With the championship coming to a close, everyone will be trying to find the last tiny advantage, so from a technical and strategy point of view it will be very interesting. With reasonably high ambient temperatures tyre warm-up should not be a problem, even with the harder compound. I would expect most teams to go with two pit stops, but some drivers might try stopping just once.” Technical tyre notes:

  • Abu Dhabi, like many circuits, requires a medium-downforce set-up to guarantee good straight-line speed down the long main straight, which is more than one kilometre, but also enough downforce to provide enough braking stability and aerodynamic grip through the corners.
  • There are comparatively few high-speed changes of direction, so in order to help traction, one of the key demands that the tyres face on the Yas Marina circuit, the engineers tend to set up their cars with a comparatively soft rear end. At the start of the weekend the dust on the track surface can cause graining, and there is quite a high degree of track evolution.
  • Abu Dhabi is located at sea level, ensuring a high ambient air pressure. This benefits engine power, which increases further as temperatures fall towards the end of the race. This too has a significant effect on tyre wear and strategy.

The tyre choices so far:

  PZero Red PZero Yellow PZero White PZero Silver
Australia   Soft Medium  
Malaysia     Medium Hard
China   Soft Medium  
Bahrain   Soft Medium  
Spain   Soft   Hard
Monaco Supersoft Soft    
Canada Supersoft Soft    
Europe   Soft Medium  
Great Britain   Soft   Hard
Germany   Soft Medium  
Hungary   Soft Medium  
Belgium     Medium Hard
Italy     Medium Hard
Singapore Supersoft Soft    
Japan   Soft   Hard
Korea Supersoft Soft    
India   Soft   Hard
Abu Dhabi   Soft Medium  

Pirelli in Abu Dhabi:

  • Pirelli launched its 2012 motorsport programme on the Abu Dhabi track in January.
  • Pirelli became the very first company to run a Formula One car in wet conditions at night, during a test at Abu Dhabi in January 2011, using a circuit artificially dampened by 140,000 litres of water.
  • Pirelli’s Middle Eastern office is run out of Dubai. The best-selling tyres in the region are the P Zero range, designed for performance and sports cars, and the Scorpion Verde: the world’s first performance SUV tyre designed with the environment in mind by helping to reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Other news from Pirelli:

  • Kevin Ceccon emerged fastest after a recent two-day GP3 test at Jerez, running on Pirelli’s latest GP3 tyres for the new specification of car next year. The Italian MW Arden driver emerged from the test more than a second faster than his closest rival, after a session that was unusually affected by rain – which enabled the drivers to run on the latest Cinturato rubber as well.
  • Italian movie legend Sofia Loren has been announced as the ‘godmother’ of the 2013 Pirelli calendar, which is being shot in Brazil. The 78-year-old Loren last featured on the Pirelli calendar herself in 2007.
  • The unique work of Argentine artist Tomas Saraceno is being showcased in the Hangar Bicocca: Pirelli’s cultural and arts space in Milan. It is one of the most ambitious projects that the Hangar has hosted yet: Saraceno’s “On Space Time Foam” installation consists of a plastic ‘cloud’ with a volume of 1200 metres cubed.